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Pediatric Gastroenterology - IBS

​​​​​​​​​​​People who have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) have digestive tracts that react abnormally to certain substances or to stress. 

This leads to symptoms like cramps, gas, bloating, pain, constipation, and diarrhea. Sometimes called "spastic colon," IBS is a common condition in children. Marshfield Clinic employs specialists who are specifically trained to treat IBS.


There is no cure for IBS but Marshfield Clinic physicians can suggest treatments to reduce symptoms. Treatment recommendations are based on a child's present symptoms, their severity and how well they respond. Options for treatment include:

Dietary Changes

  • Symptoms can improve when children reduce or eliminate certain foods from their diet. Foods that often contribute to IBS include fatty foods, dairy products, carbonated beverages, and caffeine. Simply keeping track of foods a child has issues with will help in avoiding symptoms.
  • Increasing high-fiber foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grain breads and cereals, can also reduce issues.
  • Eating several small meals throughout the day instead of a few large ones may reduce symptoms.

Parents should always consult a physician before starting a child on medication to help weigh the potential benefits against the risk of possible side effects. Specific medications could include:

  • Fiber supplements can help control constipation.
  • Laxatives help relieve moderate to severe constipation.
  • Those that help relieve diarrhea.
  • Antispasmodics to relax muscle contractions in the bowel and reduce pain but should be discussed with a doctor due to potentially serious side effects.

Stress Management
Reassuring a child that IBS is not life-threatening can help reduce their anxiety, which could help lessen symptoms. Some forms of counseling have been shown to help manage IBS symptoms. Parents can help reduce stress by informing school personnel of their child's issues to determine if special care can be taken like access to a private restroom.

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